Are you a trans person over the age of eighteen, resident in the UK? We want to help you connect with a penpal!

Being trans can be isolating. There are fantastic services available to help with this, like support groups and online communities, but they can also divide people by age, gender and stage of transition, and some people aren’t able to access them. Trans people need a wide range of opportunities to meet one another.

Writing letters is a unique experience. While it’s easy to shout someone down on Twitter or Facebook, writing a letter gives you time to reflect. Unlike receiving a message on a forum or by email, when you receive a letter, you don’t need to feel guilty about taking your time to reply. It’s also a creative medium: if you like, you can use colours and stickers, doodle and decorate – whatever suits you best.

You will need to read our behaviour policy (below) and fill out the application form.

Every so often, when a sufficient number of people apply, we will match up penpals. You will receive an email with your penpal code, our address, and which of you should write the first letter.

Whenever you write to your penpal, address the envelope to us and write ‘Penpal Code: [your penpal code]’ clearly somewhere on the envelope. We’ll censor the code and forward the envelope to the correct address. Please don’t decorate the envelope in case your penpal lives with other people who do not know that they are trans.

You should aim to write to your penpal once a month. If you would like to write more or less frequently, you can discuss that with your penpal. You can also exchange addresses, but don’t pressure your penpal into this, and remember that we cannot prevent someone who knows your address from writing to you.

If you want to stop writing to your penpal for any reason, that’s fine! Just remember to email us, so we can find them (and you!) a new match. If they have violated the behaviour policy, we may need further information from you, so that we can decide whether they need a warning or removal from the penpal project.

If you’re not comfortable paying for stationary or stamps, or if you need to update your address, contact us at gcllpenpals@gmail.com. We can always help!

You must agree to the following before we will match you with a penpal. Depending on severity, violations of the wording or spirit of the policy will result in either a warning or removal from the project.

  • Only trans people over eighteen are eligible penpals. By agreeing to this policy, you are stating that you are eligible.
    • In this instance we define the group of ‘trans people’ broadly, to include men and women with a history of transition, all nonbinary people, and people who intend to transition but have not yet done so.
    • If your penpal reveals that they are under the age of eighteen, you must report them to us immediately. We will send them the details of more age-appropriate services and remove them from the penpal list.
    • We intend to keep the project running indefinitely, adding new penpals at intervals. Remember, if you are seventeen now, you can always apply next year.
  • Do not harass or verbally abuse your penpal.
    • Transphobic, homophobic, misogynist, racist, ableist, and otherwise bigoted language is strictly prohibited. Of course we all have internalised prejudices and make mistakes, but it is never your penpal’s job to educate you.
  • Be tolerant of your penpal’s background.
    • Your penpal may use language to describe themselves that you find offensive. We don’t intend to police this. Part of the penpal project is learning about people from outside your own community.
  • Respect your penpal’s boundaries.
    • Do not pester your penpal for their address.
    • Do not continue writing to them if you have been asked to stop.
  • Your penpal is not your therapist and has not signed up to the scheme in order to mentor you. This project is about developing friendships and community; writing to one another should be enjoyable for both of you.
    • If you are worried about your penpal’s wellbeing, you can always contact us.
  • Asking about your penpal’s romantic or sexual availability is inappropriate. The likelihood that they are interested in this is far lower than the likelihood that you will make them uncomfortable.
  • You can send your penpal packages, but don’t send anything illegal.
    • Do not ask your penpal for hormones.
  • Do not share your penpal’s address or personal details with anyone else.

For safeguarding purposes, the penpal project is run by two transgender volunteers, James and Jennie. We do not know each other outside of the penpal scheme. If you have a problem with your penpal, or are concerned about their wellbeing, contact us at gcllpenpals@gmail.com. You can also contact us at our individual email addresses if you would prefer that only one of us be involved in resolving a problem: gclljames@gmail.com for James, or gclljennie@gmail.com for Jennie. If one of us knows you or your penpal outside of the project, we will make sure the other is responsible for your wellbeing.

You can read the full safeguarding policy here.

We will keep your email, name and mailing address on a private Google Drive accessible only to James and Jennie. We will delete your matching details once you are matched. This does mean that if you need a new penpal, you will need to fill out your form again.

We will never share any of your details with your penpal or with anyone else.

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